Living and coping with an aging parent or spouse can be difficult under the best of circumstances. It can be increasingly challenging to keep yourself and your family intact and healthy when an elderly person becomes progressively ill, dependent, anxious or demanding. Sometimes buried feelings, unresolved conflicts from childhood and even guilt can get in the way of good judgment.
There are signs to watch for that might signal it is time for another solution to the management and care of your aging relative.
- Has your aging relative’s health deteriorated past the point of your ability to provide what you feel is good care?
- Are you (or the elderly person) losing sleep consistently?
- Is your aging relative becoming a danger to himself or to your family due to forgetfulness or an inability to accept his limitations?
- Do you feel trapped by and/or resentful towards your aging relative despite efforts to get assistance?
- Has your family begun to argue with each other, find less happiness at home or resent the presence of an elderly person?
- Do you feel you might be becoming physically or emotionally ill under the strain of constant care?
It is important for you, as the caregiver, to recognize these warning signs and begin to consider an alternate form of care. There is a wide range of possibilities to be explored with a social worker, including retirement communities, assisted living apartments, board and care homes as well as nursing homes. Once you realize your limitations, you can begin the selection process with or without the assistance of the elderly person. If possible, it is suggested you offer the elderly person at least two possible solutions (which are acceptable to you) for the final choice.
It might be wise to call a family meeting before decisions are made, but if you have reached your limit, you must let that be known. Guilt feelings and thoughts of abandonment are very normal and some elderly people may use these feelings to their best advantage. There is no mistaking; it is a hard decision to make and the adjustment to the new living situation might take months. However, you need to take solace in the fact that you and your family did all you could. This is a positive choice reflecting the needs of your family as a whole.
There are many elderly people living well into their 90’s and some past lO0. The reality of long term home care can be staggering for well intentioned caregivers. Don’t be afraid to look into alternatives to home care when the stress signals are there. You have provided a wonderful service of loving care for your aging relative. Feel good that you have been able to extend yourself and your home for any period of time. The next stages of living arrangements can provide new ways and opportunities for your care and support.